Welling 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Match Report courtesy of Unofficial Rushden & Diamonds Website (1997-2001)

16th February 1999 versus Welling United at San Siro

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Whyte, Warburton, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, DeSouza, Collins, Underwood.
Subs: Cramman, Foster, Hamsher.

Diamonds Scorer: Collins

Webmasters MoM: Jim Rodwell

Match Report:

With three points and a win under their belts an absolute necessity, Diamonds made the trip to Welling United last night. Welling themselves desperately needed the points in their fight to avoid relegation so it was going to be an interesting encounter. Brian Talbot had made the brave decision to drop Gary Butterworth, and with Van the Man still not 100% it was left to Mark Cooper to fill the gap in midfield. The only other change to the team being the return of Unders after his suspension.

The opening minutes looked particularly good for Diamonds as they came out and put Welling under immediate pressure. Sharp, crisp tackling in midfield and neat interpassing upfront gave De Souza a great chance after only a couple of minutes, but his shot skimmed just over the crossbar. Welling survived the early scare and started to play a bit themselves, but always ran out of ideas in the final third as passes were misplaced and the first touch let them down. These days Diamonds nearly always look competent at the back, and again JIm Rodwell had a great game. On the occasions that Welling did cause problems there was Jim to get in a lunging tackle, hustle a player off the ball, or get his head to a cross. He now manages to find his team-mates with a lot of his clearances, something that always let him down in the past. But as Diamonds continued to exert pressure on a poor defence Collins found an opening, shrugged off a challenge, and coolly placed the ball past the keeper and into the net.

With the initiative Diamonds continued to make chances in the first half, never looking class, often clumsy, with Cooper in midfield giving a different dimension to the game, but still not being able to command and provide the platform to the forwards. Too often De Souza and Collins seemed to get in their own way, both making the same runs. Heggsy seemed lively and had a couple of great runs, made a few intelligent passes and crosses, but nothing into the feet of Collins and De Souza. It appeared that as the game wore on Heggsy and De Souza were getting a bit frustrated with themselves. Even Chris Whyte found himself upfront on occasions in an attempt to press home the advantage and grab a second goal but it failed to materialise.

So Diamonds went in at half time one up, never really troubled – though Smudger did have to make one good save in the half, and looking better than we had seen them for a while. A platform to build on in the second half? Unfortunately not! Diamonds seemed content to hang on with what they had got. The defence rarely looked troubled but likewise nor did Wellings. There were a few chances but we rarely if ever put the defence under consistent pressure, and their keeper had no save to make from the Diamonds attack, only to watch shots from Macca and Heggsy shave the crossbar.

The game petered out, bookings and mis-tackles took over and a victory was eventually secured. Second half the play was scrappy, there seemed an in-ability to pass more than twice in succession. But we are back to winning ways and I think that pressure did get to the players. In previous games we had surrendered leads and got beaten, so maybe the performance tonight was of secondary importance. I don’t think we will see the vision come back into the side until Van the Man returns, and surely the dropping of Butts means than we are not far away now from that change.

There was certainly no doubting the effort from the team tonight, but bookings received throughout the game by Diamonds players meant that the passion had to be curtailed. A dismissal would have been disastrous. It will be interesting to see now how the team reacts on Saturday, in a hard game against Hednesford. My worry was that BTs dismissal of the title this season would have an effect of the players, but maybe its all kiddology to take the pressure off. Certainly on the coach returning from the game the lads are up for it, and have not given up. Lets hope they get great support at home on Saturday and next Tuesday against Southport, and maybe they can put in a performance to match the effort.

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